This Old One…
“How are you feeling?”
Talk about surprise after surprise. Besides being able to tell A-Lan had opened her eyes without looking her way, sounding different to the voice she was familiar with and appearing much younger than his hunch-backed self that she remembered, the elder had roughly a hundred needles in a girl he laid on a haystack and numerous venomous herbs, such as heart corrosion flower in seven days, sorted out on the cavern ground as if he was Nanjiang’s Poison King.
I… I… That… Where… Why…
A-Lan couldn’t discern what was on her mind, let alone answer the question; more puzzling was what happened to rush of emotions that saturated her mind prior to passing out.
The person who hurt the woman the elder operated on was beyond just skilled with a sword. If her injuries resembled the barely-visible cuts under her armpits and close to her breasts that penetrated to her organs, then it would be a nightmare to deal with. If nobody used their true qi to reduce her internal damage promptly, the woman was as good as dead. Rather, she would have to deal with excruciating torture before she would die her unavoidable death.
The elder not only managed to preserve the injured woman’s breathing but also rescued her from the gates of hell with his acupuncture and herbs.
Don’t! You’ll kill her!
Despite not being acquainted with the woman, A-Lan couldn’t bear to see the elder palm the woman on the head and, consequently, kill her. By no means was A-Lan feeling benevolent; she merely admired and sympathised with the woman for fighting on in spite of her injuries.
A-Lan couldn’t believe the woman accepted the elder’s internal energy without any hitches, circulating around her body and then to her dantian, even repairing the damage the swordsman done unto her. The elder siphoned internal energy to the woman a total of six times, when A-Lan saw a faint thread wrapped around his finger.
H-he’s using a thread to close the internal damage to her meridians? What innovation. Just who in the world is he?
Supplying true qi to nourish meridians was a concept only internal users employed because not even the best doctors could find organs called “meridians” in the human body. That was why A-Lan found it preposterous for the elder to close injures to meridians, let alone siphoning qi and stitching up the woman simultaneously.
“It’s a qi thread,” stated the elder, startling A-Lan. “I used needles to control thirty-two qi threads to close her wounds. Snow spirit spider silk is used to stitch up open wounds inside the body.”
A-Lan checked out the woman’s toned legs, thighs almost matching the circumference of her calves. Before long, A-Lan could see a shade of warmth restored to the formerly mangled body.
“She’s no longer in critical condition.”
A-Lan contemplated answering but deemed it nothing more than a remark the elder made to himself on second thought.
“Are you not interested?”
“I’m not a doctor, so why should I be?” fibbed A-Lan.
Huh? What happened to my injuries? I feel better than before I passed out, perfectly fine, actually. Did he nurse me back to health?
“Aren’t you an odd one? You threw your life into the wind when you saw her die, yet you do not even want to take a look at her now.”
“Wh-why would I care about her life?”
“She fought a swordsman in the woods, lost her limbs and head was used for a trophy. You pried open your accupoints through force, injuring yourself before you could fight. Had this old one not lent you a hand, you would have not escaped as far as you did.”
He tripped me over when I fled from Luo Ming, and nobody noticed? Who… Is he saying that is Abels?! That’s a girl, though. I don’t know anyone with those features…
“What do you mean she is… I-is she Mountain Monster? Th-though I’ve never seen her real appearance, not many people can rival her disguise skills. Sh-she was the one Luo Ming killed, right?” A-Lan quavered, unable to contain her joyous hope for solace even though part of her was afraid to ask and have her heart crushed a second time.
“Silly.” The elder shook his head and continued, “Abels is the only one to have learnt up to the sixth level of Evil Eminence Scripture in recent generations. Don’t assume he’s so fragile. He’s not going to lose his limbs that easily. He’s the kind who’d tried to bite his opponent to death if he was just a head. You’re making light of your man.”
Only when A-Lan’s adrenaline wore off did she notice the elder was transferring his internal energy to her without lifting a muscle. More importantly, he was able to transfer potent internal energy in a single second without breaking a sweat. For someone who had met numerous unbelievable adepts, the elder was another beast all together.
“You don’t seem to care where Abels is.”
“Where is he? Do you know where he is right now? Has Luo Ming detained him?”
“I don’t know where he is. That being said, he should be fine. I don’t think I could kill him for certain. Therefore, I don’t believe there’s someone who can breeze through him.”
“Great. Great. Great…”
“You’re either foolish or live a pampered life. Him being alive is satisfactory to you?”
As much as the comment ground her gears, A-Lan saw the elder’s point.
“Hmm, Luo Ming’s sudden betrayal certainly does raise questions.”
Having saved Mountain Monster’s life didn’t mean her treatment was done. While brewing herbs, the elder siphoned varying degrees of true qi into the needles he slotted into her: “The search for rare metals has been ongoing for half a year, hasn’t it?”
“H-how do y-”
“The plan is bound to evoke anger from everyone. Now, what happens if it’s the machination of a bandit from Beijiang who trespassed into the Central Plain? The Seven Champion White Princes’ influence and authority is loaned from the imperial court, so what will the imperial court think of Luo Sword Manor if Luo Sword Manor holds a gathering that consists of people from the pugilistic world this scale? What sort of narrative can Luo Sword Manor use to convince the imperial court to support them?”
“Simple: establish a common enemy. An enemy ranked as one of the Supreme Ten Saints is a solid reason for the two to form an alliance against the common enemy.”
“… You mean to say that we… are sacrifices?”
“The elaborate design involves practically half of the pugilistic world, yet the mastermind doesn’t have to shoulder any of the fault. You have to give a man credit where it is due. The plan must’ve taken years of drafting and consolidating it step by step. He’s managed to pique my interest as to what sort of sword he is going to forge now that I see how much time and effort he is pouring into this project.”
For the elder to speak so lightly of Luo Ming and Abels, it was only reasonable for A-Lan to be wary of him. He really did sound genuinely interested and not shaken or deferential when mentioning the two unlike countless others.
“… Wh-who are you?”
The elder stopped working to look over, while A-Lan shuddered as it dawned on her that she might’ve pried further than she should have. Upon closer inspection, she realised she recognised the face, albeit the aura surrounding him having totally changed. Although it sounds abstract, at best, she wouldn’t question him if he told her that he could alter fate.
“I believe I’ve introduced myself before, but I don’t mind introducing myself again. Ma’am River Monster, this old one is Zhong Ning.”